The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off of their league-mandated bye week, boasting fresh legs (for those who didn’t spend their week off doing wild and crazy things on tropical vacations) and a desire to get back out on the ice.
The GOAT and Dermott are back up, Andersen is on fire, and the team is poised to bounce back after an inconsistent start to 2018.
Freddie Andersen is in net tonight, which is absolutely zero surprise. As we know, Mike Babcock plans to ride the starter in every game outside of the splits on back-to-backs, and today is no exception.
The good news, of course, is that Andersen couldn’t possibly be doing better. He’s been flying high this year, shaking off a briefly rough start to currently sit on a .921 save percentage in all situations through 37 appearances.
The bad news, though, is that his last two games weren’t quite the strong performances he’s been putting up over the last two to three months. A sub-.900 save percentage on January 10th was preceded by a .909 the game prior, which was good but not great.
In other news, Travis Dermott and Frederik Gauthier are back up with the club after the bye week, although that’s no real surprise. Their reassignments during the week off were expected to be temporary, and their returns were anticipated long in advance.
It was expected leading up to Tuesday that Jake Allen would get the nod for the Blues, but the team threw a curveball when it was announced that Carter Hutton will instead make the start for St. Louis.
Hutton is a career backup with just 121 career NHL games at age-32, but don’t let his lack of sufficient NHL experience fool you; he’s one of the hottest backups in the league at the moment, boasting a .940 save percentage through 15 games and counting.
For the Blues, riding Hutton as long as he’s performing well is advantageous in anticipation of a postseason run for Allen. It gives Allen more rest time, and certainly doesn’t hurt them on the scoresheet.
The Blues have really been hit by the loss of Jaden Schwartz, who was one of the league’s hottest forwards before going down with a long-term injury in early February.
They’ll be looking to bounce back after a tough loss to Florida before their own bye week, though, so they could jump in hot.
- It’s been 43 games and Nazem Kadri still only has 24 points on the season. He’s not playing a particularly tough defensive game compared to his normal zone starts from year to year, but his possession numbers are lagging a bit and his scoring is still down; part of that is bad luck, but at some point the frustration may start to boil over.
- Both teams are coming off of bye weeks, so both should have the same fresh legs and desire to win after falling flat in their final games prior to the break. The question, at this point, is which one is going to jump out of the gate a bit faster.
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